Soft Hair: Soft Hair

Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust are psychedelia personified. Just how much of their craziness can you handle?

- It’s hard to think of an artistic pairing that could go more badly off the rails than that of Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust. Leave them alone in a room together and you could return five minutes later to find some kind of technicolour car accident splattering the walls and little else.

On their own, both have quite impressive back-catalogues. Mockasin’s overtly weird psych pop is also undeniably way better than the average, while Dust’s work with his old band Late Of The Pier took dance-punk to alarmingly wild extremes; his own personal strangeness - everything that was even odder than what he could unleash in the band - has exploded outwards under his LA Priest moniker in a new album last year. That lot’d easily convince you why the pair wanted to be together.

If they’re two peas in the same pod, you can also hear how that might lead, all too easily, to massive self-indulgence. At least they’ve had a long time to get the formula right. The record has been gestating for half a decade while the pair got on with all of the other things they do. A single, Lying Has To Stop, emerged the other month and gave a window into how this itinerant coupling might work out. Amidst quirky sound-effects that were suspiciously reminiscent of creaking bed-springs a pleasantly loopy psych-pop duet bubbled up. Touched with a wry sense of humour, it presents a tongue-in-cheek soap opera drama that teases the pair’s budding bromance. It’s one half the pop genius they share and the other half all the weird noises they’d much rather be making. If nothing else it keeps you on tenterhooks, none the wiser about whether the record is an over-the-top masterpiece, or drug-addled mess.

Conan’s squeaky falsetto disintegrates into crackling vocal fry on opener, Relaxed Lizard, and it made me hold my breath: it’s going to be the mess isn’t it? The song barrels forth in an almost stream of consciousness manner. It sounds a bit like a classic soft-rocker, but like that was almost an accident. Maybe they just surgically extracted that bit from a thirty-six hour bender where the mics were left on. It’s accompanied by all sorts of strange percussion, much like the rest of the record. Every now and then it comes into focus and you get a snatch of transcendental beauty. “Oh, to be the real thing” Dust moans semi-incoherently at the very end: it seems apropos.

Is it a bit weird that a record so long in the making should feel so jammy? There’s a spacey, prog-rock vibe that keeps returning. It’s in the weird array of instruments, and the arty psychedelia, but also -I suppose- in unexpectely clever (but still strange) song structures. It’s like they had the time to think up something quite complex, but that kinda clashes Soft Hair’s other purpose, as a haven: only something Mockasin and Dust get to do in those rare moments when two kindred spirits relax together.

To see them dressed up in red bodypaint, staring deviously, demonically back from the album cover - oh you two, what have you been doing? In a recent interview together, Mockasin and Dust admitted they’ve been working on film projects and their music? They’re a bit over it right now. To quote Mockasin: “It’s a bit boring doing the whole record thing, isn’t it?” What I think he’s really saying is: we’re going to keep doing just what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been doing is just what we feel like. In Soft Hair, that’s exactly what you get.  

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Soft Hair
Artist: Soft Hair
Record Label: (Weird World / Domino / EMI)